Tag Archives: dystopian

City of Savages by Lee Kelly

city of savages coverIt’s been almost 20 years since the beginning of World War III, and the island of Manhattan is a Prisoner of War camp run by a fearsome, powerful woman named Rolladin. It is the only home 17-year-old Sky and her younger sister Phee have ever known. As far as they know, the war against the Red Allies still rages outside their small community, and Rolladin’s camp is the only place they are safe. Safe until four young men wander into camp, claiming they have sailed to Manhattan from England, a feat no one thought possible with the War still going on all over the world. Determined to figure out what’s really going on, Sky, Phee, and their mother flee the camp with the young men. As they travel and learn more of the city’s and their own past, they discover very little is what it seems, and Rolladin isn’t the only thing on the island they should fear.

Conceptually, this was a good novel. There are plenty of post-apocalyptic novels, but an interesting time frame existed here. Usually, the “apocalypse” has either just happened, in the first few chapters of the novel, or happened in the VERY distant past and no one remembers it. Here, we have an apocalypse that happened relatively recently, but just long ago enough that the main characters either weren’t born or were too young to remember. People were still suffering the effects, but society was beginning to rebuild. I liked this choice by author Lee Kelly because it allowed her to do almost anything she wanted with the setting, and I liked what she did.

I also liked the way Kelly chose to tell us about the apocalyptic event itself. Main characters Sky and Phee often complained that their mother – who lived through the War – would not tell them anything about it. Circumstances allowed Sky to swipe her mother’s old journal, which she and Phee read together to learn about the past – theirs and the city’s. At first I thought this idea was cheesy, but it worked. I liked it better than the over-used storyteller trope. It helped that the story of what happened to the city was a good one. The journal gave the right amount of information, and left the right amount of mystery, to keep the story moving and keep the reader invested.

Now for the parts that didn’t work. Each chapter indicated at the beginning whether Sky or Phee was the narrator. While I generally like two different POVs, this did not work for me. If I didn’t pay close attention to see who was speaking, I couldn’t tell the difference. Especially when the sisters started being attracted to the same boy. I guess this is a spoiler, but you could see it coming for MILES, plus its practically expected in this sort of novel, so I doubt it would surprise anyone. I found this love triangle to be particularly obnoxious, and it really slowed down the middle of the novel. Like, enough that I almost stopped reading, and had pretty much given up on liking the rest of the book.

Luckily, the twist at the end of the novel was fascinating and unexpected. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any more complicated, or even interesting, tbh, they did. I don’t want to give anything away about that.

3 stars

While I didn’t love this book, I also didn’t hate it. The last quarter or so was great. I wonder if the author intends to write a sequel. It stands alone fine, but I also think the characters have story left to tell. I give the novel 3 stars out of 5 and recommend it to fans of YA dystopian fiction.

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Breathe by Sarah Crossan

Breathe coverAlina, Bea, and Quinn are living in the pod, rigidly controlled by the organization Breathe. Breathe built the pod during The Switch, when deforestation and over-farming caused the planet to run out of oxygen. Only the rich and the very lucky earned places in the pod, and now their children are struggling to survive within the corruption and caste system. Quinn is a Premium. His father is a government official, so Quinn lives in luxury and has as much oxygen as he needs to do whatever he pleases. His best friend Bea is an auxiliary, and her family barely scrapes by, forced to work hard to pay the extreme oxygen tax. Bea dreams of a better life, hopefully one with Quinn in it. Alina is a member of the Resistance, a fugitive after she steals tree cuttings from the biosphere. Quinn and Bea are leaving the pod for a camping trip in the Outlands when Alina runs into them-literally-and begs them to help her escape. Now they are stuck with each other, as they learn about Breathe’s corruption and fight not only for their own survival, but for the freedom of people everywhere.

The book put me in mind of Under the Never Sky, which I read recently. You can read my review here. It was the same sort of theme, which I liked and thought was done well–people living in luxury in a pod, not knowing about the government’s corruption or understanding what’s happening outside the pod. I thought the explanation for why humanity is living in pods to be frighteningly believable. We certainly are cutting trees down at an alarming rate. I also liked the three narrators. Again, this is something I have read recently, both in Under the Never Sky and in Defiance, and I think this variety of point-of-views really adds to the story in all cases. A reader really understands the depth of relationships between characters when it can be read from both sides, and you avoid some female-whining this way as well I think.

While I enjoyed this book, I didn’t think there was anything particularly special about it. It read like other plots I had seen before, despite the change of setting. While I liked Bea, Quinn, and Alina, I didn’t get really attached to any of them, and wasn’t particularly emotionally invested in their struggles. The supporting characters were shallow and boring, and you didn’t really learn anything about any of them. I thought both the Pod Minister and Petra, the leader of the resistance, were cookie-cutter characters and Crossan could have made them much more interesting. I’ll probably read the next book in this series to see what happens, but I’m not desperate for it, like I am for the sequel to Defiance or Insurgent.

Happy reading,

-Branwen

Defiance by C. J. Redwine

Rachel Adams is a 16-year-old girl and daughter to one of the best couriers in Baalboden. Even though 60 days have passed since he was supposed to return from his last delivery and he must by law be declared dead, Rachel is certain he is alive, and she will do everything she can to find him. 19-year-old Logan McEntire is Jared Adams’s apprentice, and about to become protector of his daughter Rachel now that Jared has been declared dead. Logan doesn’t believe Jared is dead either, but doesn’t know how to tell an angry Rachel that he’s on her side. He also knows something is not right about the Commander of Baalboden–Logan is sure the commander knows more than he is willing to admit about Jared’s disappearance. Logan and Rachel both want to find Rachel’s father, and reveal the Commander for the treacherous, evil dictator they both know him to be. Will they be able to overcome their past differences and work together to find Jared, defeat the Commander’s manipulations, and ultimately change the fate of Baalboden?

I loved the way CJ Redwine chose to tell this story from both Logan and Rachel’s point of views. Typically YA novels like this are heroine-driven, with the male leading character mainly being the love interest. Instead, we got to read about both the action and the love story from both points of view, which really added to the story, especially when Logan and Rachel both described the same scene, alternating so often they were almost speaking at the same time. I also felt that Logan actually acted like a typical 19-year-old young man (at least, as far as I know, being a girl and all). I liked the cute little scene when Rachel comes out in her claiming dress, and Logan can’t stop staring at her breasts. (“I don’t want to admit my attraction to her is strong enough to rise above my grief and my sense of responsibility, but they’re breasts.”) That made me chuckle. I also thought–for a completely different example–the descriptions of Rachel’s grief and internal struggle were very well done, especially seeing it from inside Rachel’s head and what Logan is witnessing on the outside. Her struggle to deal with the terrible circumstances she is in, along with the consequences of her actions and learning to forgive herself and move on, was written beautifully and believably.

I liked the addition of the new characters Willow and Quinn more than halfway through the novel. I enjoyed Willow’s blunt-ness and mischievous sense of humor, and the sense of mystery surrounding Quinn. We didn’t get to learn very much about these characters, but I’m guessing they will be more important in the next novel.

Favorite line: “It’s probably my job to tell you life isn’t fair, but I figure you already know that…So instead, I’ll tell you that hope is precious, and you’re right not to give it up.”

Defiance was a moving and beautifully written dystopian young adult novel. If you liked the Hunger Games, Divergent, or Under the Never Sky, you will like this novel.

Happy reading,
-Branwen

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

WARNING: This review will contain spoilers for Divergent. Insurgent is the second book in Veronica Roth’s Divergent series. I had high hopes for this book-I loved Divergent-and I was not disappointed. Insurgent continues the story of Tris Prior and her friends and family as they deal with the Eurdite and Dauntless-traitors who are trying to control the other factions at the whim of Eurdite’s power-hungry leader Jeanine. War is looming.  Alliances are being forged and broken. Tris’s relationships with the people around her are changing as everyone chooses a side. Who can she trust? Who is telling the truth? Will Tris finally find out what her divergence really means?

This book was impossible to put down. It picked up the moment Divergent left off, which was somewhat confusing for me, as I didn’t quite remember which character was which and it took me a few chapters to get my bearings. It added to the story’s intensity though, much more so than if Roth had stopped and re-capped what happened in the previous book. I also enjoyed how much Roth developed all the characters. They all had complex personalities, and many of them had painful histories to go along with them.

The relationship between Tris and Tobias/Four was emotional as well. They both thought they knew what was best, both for each other, and for everyone around them. This led to conflict and pain for Tris, and likely Tobias as well though we don’t get to hear the story from his point of view. It was refreshing to read a teen relationship that was not all sunshine and butterflies, and that seemed so real.

There was a time during the middle of the book where Tris started to get on my nerves a bit. I was concerned that she was rapidly turning into Katniss: whining, feeling sorry for herself, arguing with the boy who she supposedly loves, believing she is the only person with all the information, and knows more than any of the leaders of any group. That was the part that reminded me most of Katniss, I think, and I was worried that this story was heading down the path of Mockingjay (*shudders*). Though they were similar, this book was better, and eventually Tris got a grip and started to make good decisions again. I just loved her character, and caught myself thinking a few times that Tris would be a wonderful friend to have in real life-although, I wouldn’t want to live in Tris’s world.

Lastly, the ending. Oh, the ending. Brilliant. I almost wish I had waited until the next book came out to read this one, so I wouldn’t have this long wait to find out what happens next.

Favorite line:
“Come on Insurgent,” he says with a wink.
“What?” I say…
“Insurgent,” he says. “Noun. A person who acts in opposition to the establish authority, who is not necessarily regarded as belligerent.”

Insurgent was fantastic. Go out and read it as soon as possible, you won’t be sorry. Happy reading!

-Branwen

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Here’s my review of Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, a dystopian YA novel. 

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi takes place in the (hopefully) distant future. The main characters, Aria and Perry, live in a world that is nothing like the one we know today.

Aria is a Dweller. She lives in Reverie, huge technologically-advanced Pods which house hundreds of thousands of genetically engineered Dwellers, many of whom live to be over 200 years old. Using their SmartEyes, people living in Reverie connect to three-dimensional computer generated worlds, which allow them to experience anything from the Paleo-lithic Era, to the Dark Ages, to the inside of a video game. Aria’s mother, and only parent, is a geneticist who designed Aria to have a spectacular singing voice. Life is care-free in the Reverie, and little thought is given to the outside world.

Perry is an Outsider. He lives in the world Dwellers call the Death Shop. Here, tribes of people make the best living they can in a desert plagued by Aether storms. They hunt for meat and grow their own crops, make their own clothes, build their own houses, and make fires to keep warm in the winter. But Perry is unique in his own way. Many people living outside the Pods develop special gifts–like the ability to hear things over extreme distances, to see in the dark, or–like Perry–to have an enhanced sense of smell.

Through circumstances beyond their control, Aria and Perry find themselves in the middle of the desert, forced to become allies to survive. Aria will not make it in the Death Shop without Perry, and Perry cannot achieve his goals without Aria. Can they work together to the end of their adventure? Or are they both doomed to die in the Death Shop?

Under the Never Sky is the sort of novel you just can’t put down. The characters are interesting and believable, and easy to emphasize with. The reader doesn’t know what’s going to happen in the story any more than the characters do–in fact, the reader knows even less about the world than those who inhabit it, so the reader is always wondering what is going on, and what will happen next. It is especially fun to watch Aria and Perry grow as they learn more about each other and their relationship changes.

When I first began reading this story, I was sure Aria was going to be a whiny teenager that would get on my nerves (*ahem* Bella…sorry but she did) and Perry would be the “macho-man” who would prefer to have nothing to do with said whiny-chick, but begrudgingly saves her life anyway. The story may have started that way, but instead of staying stagnant and boring, the characters grew, and developed into people you might actually want to be around in real life. I was impressed. Another thing that impressed me about this novel was that you never quite understand everything. For example, what is the Aether?? I imagine Veronica Rossi sitting on a bench somewhere, watching people buy this book, snickering and thinking, “I can perplex another one!” There are so many things she doesn’t tell us–and yet, it’s perfect. Rather than get on my nerves, it makes me want to figure things out for myself, and use my own imagination. And really, who cares where the Aether came from? What really matters is how Rossi’s brilliant characters are reacting to it now.

I believe this book is the first in an eventual series, and I hope the next book gets here fast! Things are only going to get more intriguing as the story of Aria and Perry continues.

Happy reading,

-Branwen